Liverpool’s seemingly endless run of tricky games continues on Friday, as they visit Chelsea in their fourth away game, fifth in total, of the Premier League season thus far.
Seriously though, when are we going to get a nice run of fixtures? Soon, actually, ish. Once Chelsea are out of the way, it’s Hull and Swansea before the easy task of Manchester United at home. So, plenty to look forward to, but all eyes now turn to Friday’s clash.
Given Liverpool’s horrendous start, playing last season’s top three in their first four fixtures – two away from home – the points return of seven from 12 isn’t bad at all, really. It’s inconsistency which has frustrated fans so far, with a dazzling 20 minutes against Arsenal securing enough goals for a 4-3 away victory, only for the Reds to go and lose their next game, 2-0 to Burnley. Burnley, the side with the lowest budget by far in the division.
Anyway, we moved on to Tottenham away, a much improved performance, but only one more point. James Milner’s penalty opened the scoring in a first half where Liverpool could, and should, have scored more, only for Danny Rose’s equaliser to ensure the spoils were shared come full-time. Last week was much better, as the Reds returned to Anfield in triumph, demolishing Leicester City 4-1 with a brilliant display of pure attacking football.
Despite most of that sounding rather good for Liverpool, it’s Chelsea who have fared better so far this term, unbeaten up to this point. They won their first three games, albeit not at a canter, with late winners against West Ham and Watford sandwiched by a commanding performance against – you guessed it – Burnley!
Things were a little trickier for them last Sunday against Swansea City, the Blues slipping 2-1 behind in South Wales having been ahead, with marksman Diego Costa eventually scoring to secure a point, meaning they’re second behind Manchester City going into the game. If they win, they’ll go temporarily top. Liverpool are sixth at the moment, and a win would catapult them somewhere between second and fourth, for at least 24 hours.
The big news that emerged from Jürgen Klopp’s pre-match press conference was the German revealing that Emre Can is back in training, but needs fitness before he’s placed back into the starting 11. With this in mind, you’d expect Jordan Henderson to retain his place at the base of the midfield.
Klopp has decisions to make in regards to who’s ahead of Hendo, with Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana unlikely to be dropped, leaving Mane, Coutinho, Firmino and Sturridge battling it out for three places. Coutinho was the fall guy last weekend as the others destroyed the Foxes, however Klopp may leave Sturridge out for this one, as he has done in other away games to the bigger teams in the division.
Dejan Lovren should return to partner Joel Matip after a black eye, with Ragnar Klavan still struggling with a knee problem. Mamadou Sakho, Joe Gomez and Sheyi Ojo are all still out, and Simon Mignolet is likely to retain his place in goal despite the recovery of Loris Karius’.
Chelsea suffered a setback in terms of team news earlier in the week when it was revealed that defender and captain John Terry would miss the game through injury, whilst fellow centre-back Kurt Zouma remains sidelined with an ACL injury. This is likely to see David Luiz, the man brought back to Stamford Bridge from PSG on Deadline Day, make his second debut for the club alongside Gary Cahill in defence.
Further forward, Oscar will likely play just ahead of Nemanja Matic and N’golo Kante, with Eden Hazard and Willian flanking Diego Costa, who has been in excellent form so far this season.
Liverpool predicted XI (4-3-3): Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana; Mane, Coutinho, Firmino.
Chelsea predicted XI (4-3-3): Courtois; Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Matic, Kante, Oscar; Willian, Hazard, Costa.
WHEN THEY LAST MET
With Chelsea ninth, 10 points behind eighth placed Liverpool, it wasn’t a thrilling affair as these two met at Anfield in the penultimate game of last season, a night that Chelsea fans may well remember for Eden Hazard re-discovering his form, rather than the 1-1 draw.
Hazard was by far and away the best player on the pitch, weaving in and out of the Liverpool defence on a number of occasions, beating Mignolet with a curled effort to open the scoring, only for Christian Benteke to capitalise on a late Asmir Begovic effort to hand Liverpool a point.
The last time they met at Stamford Bridge was a different affair, Firmino and Coutinho carving Chelsea apart to hand Klopp a 3-1 win, his first significant victory as Liverpool boss.
However, all of that is the last time the two teams met competitively. There was a fairly boring pre-season game in America in July, which Chelsea won 1-0.
Chelsea and Liverpool are the top two teams for expected goals difference so far this season.
Daniel Sturridge make 62 appearances for the Blues between 2009 and 2013 before moving to Liverpool.
Jordan Henderson has completed the most passes in the Premier League so far this season.
Liverpool have scored in 14 of their last 20 away games, but only kept three clean sheets in that time.
Match: Chelsea vs Liverpool
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Friday 16th Septemeber
Referee: Martin Atkinson
PREDICTION: Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool
Having successfully called Tottenham 1-1 Liverpool one, and predicted a 3-1 win against Leicester which was ever so close, I’m hoping that my streak doesn’t continue this week, as I think the Reds will suffer their second defeat of the season. Conte will have his players fired up after they dropped points against Swansea, and I think they’ll take lessons from Burnley in how to frustrate Liverpool. Diego Costa to infuriate everyone by scoring the winner.